The Power of the Gospel
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation.
People want to change. All advertising is based on the presupposition that people want things different from the way they are. They want to look better, feel better, think better, and live better. They want to change their lives but, except from an external standpoint, they are unable to do so.
Only the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to change people and deliver them from sin, from Satan, from judgment, from death, and from hell. Acts 4:12 says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” And that name is Jesus Christ.
So God’s Word, which is all about Jesus Christ, can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We are sinful and unable to remedy our condition, but from God comes the incredible, limitless power that can transform our lives.
|January 1||Commitment to God’s Standards|
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”
Just as organizations have rules their members must follow, God has standards Christians must live by.
When someone is part of a group, he or she is obligated to follow its laws or standards. American citizens are required to obey the laws of the United States. Employees must conform to the rules of their company. Athletic teams are expected to listen to their coach.
Most of us want to be part of a group because with belonging comes acceptance. This desire to conform can be quite strong, sometimes dangerously so. During Jesus’ time, “many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42–43). Those rulers were so committed to their religious system that they damned their souls by rigidly adhering to its code.
Some people think belonging to the church is different though. They want the blessings, rights, and privileges of being a child of God, but they’re unwilling to conform to biblical standards. But God expects Christians to live a certain way. Paul told the Corinthian believers to remove from their midst all who live immorally (1 Cor. 5:1–2). In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 he says, “Keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.”
Since people can join athletic teams and businesses and follow the rules, since people can be so fearful of being cast out of their society that they forfeit their souls, since people can be so devoted to things that don’t matter, shouldn’t Christians make an even greater commitment to what matters most? In Ephesians 4:1–6 Paul tells us how we can “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called” (v. 1). Let’s commit ourselves to obey God as we learn what He requires of us.
Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to show you areas where your commitment to Him is lacking, and for help in strengthening those areas.
For Further Study: Read John 9. What were the parents of the man born blind most committed to? ✧ What effect did that commitment have on them?
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary lists 550,000 words. And it is a solemn and beautiful thought that in our worship of God there sometimes rush up from the depths of our souls feelings that all this wealth of words is not sufficient to express. To be articulate at certain times we are compelled to fall back upon “Oh!” or “O!”—a primitive exclamatory sound that is hardly a word at all and that scarcely admits of a definition.
Vocabularies are formed by many minds over long periods and are capable of expressing whatever the mind is capable of entertaining. But when the heart, on its knees, moves into the awesome Presence and hears with fear and wonder things not lawful to utter, then the mind falls flat, and words, previously its faithful servants, become weak and totally incapable of telling what the heart hears and sees. In that awful moment the worshiper can only cry “Oh!” And that simple exclamation becomes more eloquent than learned speech and, I have no doubt, is dearer to God than any oratory. BAM084-085
Lord, I come, with my heart on its knees, into Your awesome presence this first day of the year. I long to know You better and to sense that awesomeness that leaves me speechless before You. Amen. 
Jesus’ Public Baptism
Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan.—Matt. 3:13a
There is something majestic about Jesus’ baptism that brought all the previous events of His earthly life into focus. Here He came fully onto the stage of the gospel story and His work and ministry truly began.
Following an eternity past in heaven and thirty years of obscurity in Nazareth, God presented the Savior publicly to the world. John the Baptist, as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” had heralded the coming of the Messiah (3:3; cf. Isa. 40:3), and now He was fully and publicly prepared to begin the fulfillment of His earthly mission.
A parallel passage in Luke tells us that this was no private or secluded ceremony: “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized” (Luke 3:21). The word translated “arrived” in Matthew 3:13 often indicated an official arrival or public appearance by a dignitary. From now on Jesus would be in the public eye and call no place His permanent earthly home (8:20).
This important episode from the beginning of Christ’s ministry clearly shows us that Jesus, though knowing what a high degree of visibility would ultimately cost Him, obediently stepped from the comfort of obscurity into the high-risk position of a public figure. His work would invite strong opinion, but in order to accomplish the Father’s will, it must take place in full view of the world. It must come at the cost of being widely observed.
|We are called to be salt and light, not merely to enjoy God’s seasoning and illumination in our own lives but to be His conveyors of grace to others. How does this public calling alter the way you express and live your Christianity? Pray that you will live not in fear but in faith.|
CREATED FOR ETERNITY
Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself…whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
Men and women without God are helpless and hopeless human beings. We do well to remember that sin is to the human nature what cancer is to the human body!
Who can argue with the fact that sin has ruined us?
Our feverish activity is only one sign of what is wrong with us—sin has plunged us into the depths and so marked us with mortality that we have become brother to the clay—but God never meant it to be so.
Men and women may argue and make excuses, but it does not change the fact that in our human society we are completely surrounded by three marks of the ancient curse: Everything is recent, temporal and transient! That is why the Holy Spirit whispers faithfully, reminding us of the Christ of God, eternity walking in flesh, God Almighty come to live among us and to save—actually to give us eternity!
This we know: When we turn our faces toward the Eternal One, asking, “God have mercy on me, a sinner,” we are finally being what God intended us to be in the first place!
Almighty God and Eternal Father, help me to journey through the coming year with a new set of eyes. Enable me to see life from Your lofty, eternal perspective.
|January 1||The Measure of True Success|
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1).
God is more interested in your faithfulness than He is in your accomplishments.
Our society is success-oriented. We love success stories. We even have television programs that exalt the lifestyles of the rich and famous. But God’s standard for success is quite different. Unimpressed by our status or wealth, He looks instead for faithfulness to His will.
Paul understood that principle and diligently pursued his calling as an apostle—one of those unique men who were foundational to the church and who were recipients, teachers, and writers of the New Testament.
That was a high calling, and yet, judging from Paul’s lifestyle, most people would hardly call him successful—having suffered imprisonments, beatings, death threats, shipwrecks, robberies, hatred from his theological enemies, sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, and exposure to the elements (2 Cor. 11:23–27). But none of those things deterred him from obeying God’s will. His final testimony was, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). That’s true success!
Although we’re not apostles, we’re to follow Paul’s example of faithfulness (1 Cor. 11:1). That’s possible because, like the Ephesian believers, we are “saints [holy ones] … who are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1). By God’s grace we’ve trusted in Christ as our Lord and Savior (Eph. 2:8–9) and have received His righteousness (Phil. 3:9) and His Spirit (Eph. 3:16) and every spiritual resource necessary for faithful, victorious Christian living (Eph. 1:3).
What remains is to cultivate greater love for Christ and more consistent obedience to His Word. Those are the hallmarks of a true disciple and God’s measure of success. Make it your goal that your life today warrants the Lord’s commendation: “Well done, good and faithful [servant]” (Matt. 25:21).
Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for His wonderful grace, by which He granted you salvation and all the spiritual resources you need. ✧ Thank Him for His Word, through which you learn the principles of godly living. ✧ Ask Him for opportunities today to encourage the faithfulness of others.
For Further Study: Read Ephesians 1:3–4; 2:10; Titus 2:11–12. ✧ What is the goal of your salvation? ✧ Are you living each day in light of that goal?
GOD IS ALWAYS FIRST AND WILL SURELY BE LAST
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the LORD.
God is always first, and God will surely be last!
In the plan of God, man is never permitted to utter the first word nor the last. That is the prerogative of the Deity, and one which He will never surrender to His creatures.
Man has no say about the time or the place of his birth; God determines that without consulting the man himself. One day the little man finds himself in consciousness and accepts the fact that he is. There his volitional life begins.
Before that he had nothing to say about anything.
After that he struts and boasts, and encouraged by the sound of his own voice he may declare his independence of God.
Have your fun, little man; you are only chattering in the interim between first and last. You had no voice at the first and you will have none at the last!
God reserves the right to take up at the last where He began at the first, and you are in the hands of God whether you will or not.
Adam became a living soul but that becoming was not of his own volition. It was God who willed it and who executed His will in making Adam a living soul. God was there first!
And when Adam sinned and wrecked his whole life, God was there still. Adam’s whole future peace lay in this—that God was still there after he had sinned.
It would be great wisdom for us to begin to live in the light of this wonderful and terrible truth: God is the first and the last!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 12). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 9). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.